McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a place of majestic beauty, quiet solitude, abundant wildlife, ancient artifacts, exhilarating exercise and, most of all, community pride.

In an effort spanning more than four decades, thousands of Scottsdale people have devoted countless hours to ensuring the protection of this land, most notably by creating a small McDowell Sonoran Preserve in 1994, with a dream to make it a large-scale, connected open space corridor. Envisioned to be nearly 35,000 acres, or roughly 57 square miles, the “people’s preserve” comprises rugged mountains and adjoining high desert that has been and will be preserved in perpetuity as natural open space.

On May 23, 1995, Scottsdale voters overwhelmingly approved a 30-year sales tax to fund land purchases for the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This vote was followed by additional votes that accelerated and expanded land purchases, including an additional 30 year sales tax in 2004. This ensured the permanent preservation of Scottsdale’s signature Sonoran Desert and McDowell Mountains.

At a time when voter approval of tax increases was extremely rare throughout the United States, Scottsdale’s voters demonstrated a love of their Sonoran Desert, a desire to share this beautiful environment with future generations, and a willingness to pay for the privilege of preserving a natural treasure.

Scottsdale celebrates the McDowell Sonoran Preserve's 25th anniversary (October 2019)

On Oct. 3, 1994, the Scottsdale City Council formally dedicated the first lands for the preserve. The "Day One" preserve was 4.5 square miles consisting of three parcels of city-owned land. Today, this permanently protected, sustainable desert habitat encompasses 47 square miles … about one-third of Scottsdale's land area.

Scottsdale dedicates two newest trailheads (October 2019)

The city dedicated Fraesfield and Granite Mountain trailheads at the Fraesfield Trailhead, 13400 E. Rio Verde Drive on October 2019. These trailheads are two of the eleven trailheads that provide public access to Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Trailhead amenities include restrooms, paved parking, equestrian staging areas, interpretive and orientation signs, and other support amenities. Drinking water is not available at either site, so please come prepared with your own water. The new trailheads are open from sunrise to sunset seven days a week.

Future trailhead improvements

The city is moving forward with design and construction of the Pima Dynamite Trailhead located on the northeast corner of Pima Road and Dynamite Boulevard. This trailhead will provide parking and support amenities for public recreational access to the extensive network of trails in the northern region of the preserve for hiking, biking, trail running, and horseback riding. Construction is expected to be completed in 2020.